Because the transition from boyhood to manhood is so important, it is crucial that a boy experiences a clear event in his life to mark his entrance into manhood in a special way. He needs to know the exact moment that he became a man, so he doesn’t have to go through his teens and twenties wondering when manhood is finally going to “kick in.” Boy’s need a Rite of Passage to make it clear to them that one chapter of their lives are ending, and a new, beautiful chapter is just beginning.
But sending him off to be alone in the wilderness for six months would not be meaningful to the modern day boy. But what would be? How can we best prepare our sons as they begin this new phase of life?
First, quality time is an important aspect of a modern Rite of Passage. It should involve withdrawing from the busy world and all the distractions that it provides, to give the boy the opportunity to stop and actually think about the significant changes that were about to occur in his life. For this reason, a Rite of Passage should not be a one-hour ceremony or small ordeal. They should be big, planned-out events designed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for him.
Second, his Rite of Passage should take him out of his comfort zone and should be a new experience for him. This might be something like trying a new activity, like archery, shooting, or rock climbing. His Rite of Passage should not occur in his hometown, but instead he should be taken away to somewhere new. Incorporating new experiences for him reflects the journey that he is making in his own life.
Third, crucial to a Rite of Passage is the addition of other male role models. Most preteen boys don’t want to listen to their dads. Therefore, the addition of other men is crucial. Their presence will help to solidify the importance of the event in the boy’s mind. It’s one thing for a dad to tell his son that he is a man; it’s another for a group of five men to take him away for a weekend and tell him. That’s the kind of thing that he will not easily forget.
Fourth, a Rite of Passage should provide an opportunity for the men of the group to share advice, wisdom, and have judgment-free, open discussion with the boy. Boys enter the new world of manhood with almost zero experience. It is the duty of his male role models to share some of their own personal wisdom and life experiences with him, so that he is properly equipped for his new journey.
Finally and most importantly, the Rite of Passage should give the boy an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ. A boy’s understanding of God undoubtedly changes as he enters manhood. As children, we get our religious identity from our parents and experience our relationship with God through them. But having maturity of faith means having an independent, personal relationship with Jesus. Our sons should not get their identity from sports teams, political parties, or social clubs. They deserve to know that they are beloved sons of an unconditionally loving Father. If young men do not have an authentic encounter with the Lord, they will try to fill the God-sized hole in their hearts with something else - friends, food, video games, social media. The list goes on and on. As Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” They will not get this instruction in public school, and it takes more than going to church once a week to instill faith in our kids.
Are you ready to organize a Rite of Passage for your son? Check out our new book Milestone to Manhood on Amazon here.